Knowledge, an Ocean Without Any Shore

The Endlessness of Knowledge (Image: Stone & Associates)

The sleep of the knower is better than worship,
if it is a knowing that brings awakening.

The quiet of the expert swimmer
is better than the exertion of one who can’t swim.

Someone who can’t swim keeps flailing and drowns,
while the good swimmer glides quietly onward.

Knowledge is an ocean without any shore–
the seeker of knowledge is a diver through the seas.

Though his life is a thousand years long,
he never wearies of seeking,

for as the Messenger of God has said,
“There are two greedy ones who are never satisfied:

the seeker of the apparent world
and the seeker of knowledge.”

~ Rumi (1207 – 1273)
Persian Theologian and Sufi poet

from Mathnawi VI: 3878 – 3883

Musings & Impressions

I first got to know Rumi by way of Hafiz, and I first got to know Hafiz by way of a yoga teacher, Kristin Khor, one of the finest who’s ever graced my yoga practice of about a decade. Like Hafiz, Rumi is one of the revered Sufi poets, whose great allure for me is not just his wisdom, but the sheer beauty of his poetry.

Kristin almost always started her class with a hit of Hafiz, just a few lines enough for her to build a theme around which she would share a personal story. I always sensed that I was one of the few who savored that brief moment of poetry. It’s a gut feeling based on a kind of resonance I felt in the air and the vibration the other bodies in the studio gave out.

I suppose it didn’t help that she had quite a strong American accent and a tempo that tended to race rather than meander, and so I sometimes grumbled in my heart that Hafiz could have benefited from a slower pace and a kinder cadence. But no matter. Kristin’s gift to me is so great that any more complaint would be ungrateful and unkind.

After I had acquired three different collections of Hafiz—of which one is the beautiful The Subject Tonight is Love—I cast my eyes on Rumi. The collection my heart eventually cleaved to while I was at Kinokuniya in 2014 was this: The Rumi Daybook of 365 Poems and Teachings from the Beloved Sufi Master, a fine collection of verses selected by Kabir and Camille Helminski.

Rumi has been a constant guide for me, though in the most recent times since October 1st, he has been closer to me than ever before—a source I turn to as I troll for verses to meditate on at the ambrosial hour of morning about four-thirty, when I sit facing a tree just outside my bedroom window, while two flickering flames grace the still and quiet of the bewitching hour that is not quite night and not quite day.

Just yesterday, I had selected this passage for my mala bead meditation—recited bead by bead over 108 beads—which you can find framed in a Spark Post in my Devotionals Before Dawn:

Knowledge is an ocean without any shore—
the seeker of knowledge is a diver through the seas.

Though his life is a thousand years long,
he never wearies of seeking. 

Today, as part of my weekly Literary Morsels feature, I’m pleased to share the rest of the poem because of its two other metaphors, so powerful, so irresistible—the swimmer and the two types of greedy people.

Alas, I’m sheepish to confess that I fit the bill of both types of greed-wrecked folks, though I like to think I’m a greedier seeker of knowledge than one craving for Maya and all the things she stands for—the values and things that make up what Rumi calls the “apparent world.”

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